The Cougars tame the Huskies at home; move up to 5-0
In front of a sold-out crowd, the Houston Cougars sought to right a wrong from last year’s encounter against the UConn Huskies at TDECU Stadium Thursday night.
“We never use the word revenge,” said Houston head coach, Tom Herman. “The word we used was atonement – to make a wrong a right. We had a chance to atone for the transgressions of last year’s team.”
Emphasizing the point to his squad, Herman had signs printed out and spread across the team’s facility with the numbers “20-17”- reminding the Cougars of their only loss of the season last year at Connecticut.
“It’s a little motivation,” said Herman. “We actually print signs and have interns and coaches walk around practice with the signs as a reminder every time they look up that we’re not going to let that happen again.”
The Cougars were determined to showcase their dominance against the Huskies. Despite the offense being held off by Connecticut’s defense for the first quarter, the Cougars’ defense made sure the Huskies did not move the ball, keeping Connecticut from scoring.
At the start of the second quarter with the ball in Houston’s possession, the offense did not waste any time to make the first shot via a 30-yard rushing touchdown by QB Greg Ward Jr.
Houston’s defense took the field with shutout in mind, managing to get the ball back to the offense.
The Cougars quickly moved the ball by throwing instead of using the run game- a lesson learned from last year.
“The game plan was don’t run the football inside,” said Herman. “We learned our lesson last year.”
The game plan worked with Houston scoring another touchdown to lead Connecticut, 14-0.
Throughout the whole second quarter, Houston was dominant on both sides of the ball.
In the final minutes of the second quarter, Houston was leading Connecticut, 28-0, but the Huskies weren’t ready to go into half-break without bearing their fangs. Connecticut’s quarterback, Bryant Shirreffs connected with Noel Thomas for a 62-yard touchdown.
“I was really proud of the way they responded coming out of halftime knowing that if they came out listlessly, UConn would’ve came back into it,” said Herman. “But to go out and punch the ball into the end zone, right off the bat, in the third quarter set the tempo for how the second half was going to be”
At the start of the third quarter, not much had changed.
Like the previous quarter, the Cougars did not relent their foot from the gas pedal on either side of the ball by converting their possessions into touchdowns while the defense kept pressuring the Huskies offense.
By the end of the third quarter, Connecticut was shutout again with Houston leading 42-7.
Despite Ward being taken out early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies weren’t able to capitalize. Connecticut’s offense only managed to score one touchdown by the eighth minute, trailing, 42-14.
Greg Ward Jr
With the progression of the season, Ward continues to show why he should be in consideration for the Heisman.
Against Connecticut, the senior threw five touchdowns- two rushing and three passing while throwing for 389 yards.
Ward has shown maturity in the quarterback position by displaying patience in the passing game.
“He’s much more patient in the pocket. He’s feeling much more comfortable. He knows the timing of different routes.” Herman said. “He’s doing a great job of standing in there. Obviously we don’t want him to get hit, but some of the more downfield throws that we had to throw tonight against UConn he stood in there like a champ and delivered some really accurate balls. He’s growing up before our eyes as a passer.”
Connecticut’s head coach, Bob Diaco, could not help but praise Ward’s versatile skills.
“It’s very hard to defend and hard to deal with.” said Diaco. “He is an absolute weapon.”
Although his skills keep progressing and keeps on being mentioned on the Heisman rankings, there is one trait that still remains the same about Ward: his humbleness.
“I don’t think about that [Heisman] at all.” Said Ward. “I just think about doing my job for my team and just doing what I can to make sure we get the win.”
The Cougars should maintain their spot in the poll after cruising past an opponent they were expected to beat.
However, Houston has a chance of moving up a spot or two if any of the teams above them were to lose on their Saturday’s matchups.
Furthermore, the Cougars go 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the American with Thursday’s win against their conference rival.
Houston will have plenty of rest before going on the road to play against the Navy Midshipmen in Annapolis, MD on Saturday Oct. 8.